We have spent the past three weekends cleaning. First we went through our closet. Then Sally's clothes. Then the pantry. Then the coat closet. Yesterday the office and the sewing drawer and every single file in all four filing cabinets. Next up is the basement.
There is a lot to learn from the old notebooks and papers and forgotten pantry shelves. I've been feeling recently like we haven't made much progress in terms of Big Life Goals, but this cleaning was full of reminders of how far we've come. Particularly in the local food department.
I have been feeling, since Sally, like we've been slipping. And we do have new things that we buy since she came along. Sally (and her developing brain) are a big fan of tinned herring. For the same reason, I now buy wild salmon from the west coast (for more on this, check out my article in this summers' edible Vineyard). I get her organic avocados from the market in Provincetown and whole wheat pasta, and I try to have bananas and raisins on hand because, quite frankly, they're easy.
But we've still come farther than I realize. Reading back through my garden journal, I realized that six years ago, I did not have a garden. There was hardly anything intentionally local in my pantry or freezer, and I don't think I'd ever been to the Orleans Farmers' Market.
Today I bake all of our bread. It is all whole-grain, and it all comes from our CSA which is based in Amherst, Massachusetts. We get all of our beans locally, from the same place. We have a good supply of raw, un-homogenized, grass-fed milk from our coop, thanks to the fact that one local family makes the drive every week. Soon we'll also be able to get butter and cream. Our greenhouse looks better this fall than ever before—it is completely full of winter greens. We have enough arugula to maybe even see our salads through (!) and plenty of kale and turnips and carrots, too. We have homegrown garlic—maybe not quite enough, but next year's much bigger crop is already in the ground. At the last Orleans Farmers' Market I bought nearly a hundred dollars worth of winter squash and potatoes and cabbage and Brussels sprouts, and they're all tucked away in the small fridge downstairs. We have a freezer full of sliced strawberries and crushed tomatoes and pesto and local meat. Our pantry shelves are stocked with bread and butter pickles, homemade cordial and vanilla, and plenty of jams and jellies. In short, we have a lot of local food in this little house.
It makes me very thankful, especially this time of year. There are so many new farmers and producers and farmers' markets, and every year it gets easier.
Of course, there is still the perennial question. What do you eat in the dead of winter?
But more and more often these days, there's an answer. Last night we had winter squash lasagna again, with butternut and sage from Cape Cod Organic Farm. The ricotta was Organic Valley, and the Parmesan came from Italy. I can live with that. We also had a salad with arugula and carrots and radishes from our garden and fresh, homemade bread. This morning Sally and I ate homemade granola with oats and maple syrup from Maine and organic nuts and coconut flakes. We sprinkled it with sliced strawberries from the freezer—berries I picked and put up with my mother in Maine—and milk from Paskamansett.
Not everything is local, but there is progress. Slowly. The kind that takes cleaning out a closet or a desk, and taking the time to see it.
This is our go-to granola these days. My friend Crissy brought a batch over when Sally was a few months old, and we've been hooked on it ever since. It's made with maple syrup and it's a little sweeter than I normally like, so you don't need much for a whole bowl of fruit and yogurt. We haven't been eating many traditional desserts recently, and we've found it also makes a nice after dinner treat. I usually make a double batch.
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup chopped cashews
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup large, unsweetened coconut flakes
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil, or melted lard or butter
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Mix together the oats, nuts, coconut, and salt in a large bowl. Combine the maple syrup and the fat in a measuring cup, then pour this mixture over the oat mixture. Stir until everything is well coated. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, for about an hour and a half, or until the granola is crisp and golden. It will keep for several weeks in a tin.